By Cindy Filipenko
The Slow Food Cycle organizers are asking for matching grants of $2,500 from Pemberton’s local governments to help take their event to the next level.
The two-year-old event, a 50 km bicycle tour of the Pemberton Valley and its agricultural producers, grew from 400 participants in its first year to 1,000 last year. This year organizers expect more than 1,500 people will tour the valley on the third Sunday in August.
Organizer Anna Helmer appealed to the Village of Pemberton mayor and council for a $2,500 grant, an amount the group will also be seeking from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. The money would be used to upgrade a brochure that features Slow Food information and a map of the valley.
“Our major focus is to fix up the interpretative guide, it’s the primary item that participants leave with. And it makes me a little nervous, but Tourism Whistler uses it regularly.”
The event was singled out and praised at October’s Terra Madre conference in Torino as an ideal Slow Food event, being both free of cost and motorized vehicles. The conference brings together food communities from around the world to discuss Slow Food’s methodology and applications, as well as its environmental and social impacts. Currently, there are more than 84,000 members of the Slow Food movement, which originated in the Piedmont region of Italy.
The event, which has an annual budget of $30,000, has already spun off a documentary and become the cornerstone event of an agricultural weekend that expanded last year to include Feast of Fields at North Arm Farm and a community-awareness fair. Costs have been covered through donations in kind, volunteer labour, grants and fundraising. Helmer pointed out fundraising takes its toll on the already extended organizers.
“Last year, the fundraising dinner took almost as much energy to organize as the ride itself,” she explained.
Councillor Mark Blundell asked if the Chamber of Commerce was involved in the initiative and whether or not the group would consider business sponsorship of the guide to offset the costs.
Helmer confirmed that the Chamber of Commerce has been very helpful in the past and the group planned on building on the relationship.
“This is a classic example of a project that could benefit from the Grant in Aid function,” noted Mayor Sturdy.
Councillor Jennie Helmer, Anna Helmer’s sister, expressed frustration that a decision on funding the project would be delayed. Councillor Helmer cited the established event’s positive economic impact on the valley — an estimated $30,000 — its celebration of the community’s agricultural sector and its mushrooming success as reasons for council to fund the project.
Sturdy said he expects the Grant in Aid function to be in place in the “next couple of months.”